Cloud computing isn’t a technology problem solved by moving workloads out of private data centers and into public clouds. As cloud guru , “What you need to really take advantage of cloud computing is a complete rethink of your approach to IT.” Yet even this declaration, bold though it may be, doesn’t go far enough.

In a conversation with Dean Del Vecchio, CIO and Head of Enterprise Shared Services at insurance company Guardian Life, he stressed the need for a wholesale change of culture to drive the transformation in IT. In the case of Guardian, that meant changing everything from how its buildings were configured to where people sit. The result? Dramatically more technical and humanagility to innovate and solve customer problems.

You can migrate to the cloud without doing that and get a similar, if perhaps a little cheaper result as staying with what you have, but you can’t use the cloud transformatively until you male that holistic transformation.

First, you change everything, one cubicle at a time

Change didn’t happen overnight at Guardian, and it wasn’t driven by a desire to be popular with the clouderati. Instead, Del Vecchio said, “I wanted to make sure we were spending our time growing the business and not just maintaining existing systems.” To get there, Del Vecchio spent a year preparing IT infrastructure, facilities, and people.

On the IT infrastructure side, the upside to moving to the public cloud was clear: Make better use of infrastructure investments, ending the curse of the company’s cyclical hardware requirements. Guardian, like most enterprises, built for its peak needs, which meant that for most of the year the company’s sizable compute, network, and storage capacity was lucky to see 15 percent utilization. Unlike most companies, however, Guardian operates in a highly regulated industry and needed to make sure that it would have an enterprise-ready platform before it moved any workloads over to a public cloud (Amazon Web Services in this case).